In honor of the many changes that have recently affected one of DC Comics’ most long lived character, I’m writing five problem I see with Wonder Woman and how they might be fixed.
Part 2: Small Island Culture’s condition is not the World’s condition
Part one discussed problems with Wonder Woman’s context and the world where she developed her values. Going hand in hand with that but changing focus, Wonder Woman’s mission’s goal rings false. At the core of the character is her aim to spread peace to man’s world. A small society, say a town or even a small country, does not function in the same manner as a large society, like a big city or the world. Cultural diversity, gender relations, and social interactions are just some of the issues that take on a much greater complexity when population increases and varies. Proscribing messages of peace and cohesion to the world because you come from a small peaceful community seems absurd. Amazons have been without interaction outside of their own space since they moved to Paradise Island. What practical applicable solutions or realistic experience could Wonder Woman possibly have? For this reason, her central cause has an undertone of implicit meaninglessness.
At the character’s genesis, much of the the explanation for Wonder Woman’s usefulness was based in her creator William Moulton Marston’s beliefs about women and the nature of power struggle. The one I think most important is the concept of submissiveness: he seems to have believed that women took an implicit pleasure in submissiveness, something he saw as good and important, and that a beautiful woman like Wonder Woman could lead others to be submissive to her, which in turn would lead to a better world since women ruling would be more kind and compassionate than men who he seemed to believe were naturally barbaric and violent. As strange as this idea may sound, its focus on a real alternative set of power roles that would disrupt the power structure of our society gives Wonder Woman’s mission a clearer and more revolutionary purpose.
For the sake of moving away from the particular bondage heavy conception that Marston had and towards a more applicable idea, perhaps Wonder Woman could focus on the idea of the group over the individual and human unity, a rejection of an implicit american ideal (individualism) but one that could lead to interesting frictions and plot points wholly unique to her.
Straczynski’s Run: JMS seems to be addressing this problem by bringing Diana away from the island near birth and making her a child of both American and Amazon cultures. Perhaps Diana can be a vehicle for connecting the two in a less preachy and more self-explorative manner in this continuity. What’s worrying about it is that all the sophistication of trying to connect both seems fundamentally changed: Diana becomes less of an adult Immigrant analog and more of a superman-esque character; She’s rooted in her mythicized background(Amazon ruined world becomes akin Krypton) while bringing a young American sensibility to her heroic actions. I’m not sure that supermanizing her origin story is the best way to go, but since much of this will be removed by the end of his run, perhaps it’s all a false concern.
Tagged: michael Straczynski · the amazon way · wonder woman
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